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Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The U.S. ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter Monday.

Why it matters: Branstad's three-year tenure was marked by a sharp escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China, exacerbated in the past year by the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump's trade war, Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong, its abuses against Uighur Muslims, a military buildup in the South China Sea and more.

  • Pompeo did not provide a reason for why Branstad, the former governor of Iowa and a diplomat who kept a low-profile as ambassador compared to his predecessors, is departing.
  • "Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair," Pompeo tweeted. "This will have lasting, positive effects on U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come."

Go deeper: Trade is now the relative bright spot in U.S.-China relations

Go deeper

Dec 21, 2020 - World

U.S. warns Chinese investments in Israeli tech industry could pose security threat

Netanyahu meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017. Photo: Xinhua/Rao Ainmin via Getty Images

The Trump administration is concerned Chinese investments in the Israeli tech industry could harm Israeli and U.S. national security, assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs David Schenker said Monday at a conference organized by the SIGNAL think tank, which focuses on Israeli-Chinese academic cooperation.

Why it matters: The Trump administration has previously raised concerns in private about Chinese involvement in Israel’s booming tech sector. This is likely the first time the administration has done so in public.

Dec 22, 2020 - World

Chinese Communist Party think tank staffer offered to pay for sources

A screenshot of Aaron Shen's LinkedIn account before he deleted it. Image source: LinkedIn

A person on LinkedIn claiming to work for a think tank run by a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party department recently offered financial compensation for the names of my sources and for reports about the incoming Biden's administration's views on China.

Why it matters: It was a surprisingly clumsy attempt to gain insider information about the U.S. government's China policy, suggesting that amid a chill in U.S.-China relations and a global pandemic, it's gotten harder for people in Beijing to know what's happening in Washington.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

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